I’m Alive, You Guys…
I know I’ve been AWOL for a while here, but I’ve been finishing up papers for the end of the semester and I just haven’t had time to make Batman jokes in that little window. I promise I’ll make up for it soon, I just need some more time to transition back into full blown sarcasm mode. I finished up my German presentation on Fritz Lang this morning, so I should be back to the grind here by later today.
And to make this seem longer than it really is, here’s my little paper about Fritz Lang.
Friedrich Christian Anton Lang, more commonly known as “Fritz” Lang, was an Austrian born film writer, producer, and director who may very well be one of the most influential men in the history of cinema. His innovations and stylistic inventions have long since become staples of the film industry, from the tropes and schemes he helped form with M to the lavish production values of the sci-fi epic Metropolis, Lang’s contributions cannot be denied and should instead be valued and applauded.
Lang was born in Vienna, Austria in 1890. His parents were both practicing Catholics, though his mother was born Jewish and later converted. His Jewish background however formed a cornerstone in his career when he was asked by the ruling Nazi regime to become the lead supervisor of the entire German film industry. Lang refused, fearful that his Jewish bloodline would in all likelihood end up getting him killed. Instead he fled Germany and his experiences forged a deep anti-fascist mindset. In regards to his religious practices, it is said that Lang was not particularly devout in his Catholic beliefs, nor in the practice of Judaism, he but throughout his film work there is a running pattern of religious imagery. Many parallels have been made between the protagonist of his film Metropolis to that of a “supreme being.” The mechanical entity that runs the city is called “MOLOCH,” which is a Canaanite word that translates to “king.” Theological scholars and film buffs love to examine Metropolis, as it is without a shadow of a doubt one of the richest silent films ever made. It certainly was the most expensive ever made, and some would say the finest.
Following Metropolis, Lang produced what some would say is his most important film, though there are others who claim that Metropolis is his true masterpiece. In 1931 Lang would direct the film M, a film-noir about a child-murderer and the police investigations of his crime. In the film, the killer is portrayed by Peter Lorre, who would later go on to appear in another classic film noir, this time an American production called Casablanca. The basic premise is that in their fervor to capture this murderer, the police disrupt the processes of the criminal underworld so much that the criminals themselves interject themselves into the race to find this killer so that business can resume. Lorre is eventually captured by the criminals who put him on trial in a mock courtroom before the police arrive to try him under the rule of law. The film helped establish the film noir genre on a base level by introducing a level of ambiguity that was not seen in film before its release. The dramatic lighting and the tone established in M would set the template for just about every film noir for the next few decades. Lang would eventually produce another film noir long after the popularization of the genre entitled The Big Heat, which was noted for its unflinching brutality, which was considered rare at the time.
After leaving Germany in 1934 he fled to Paris, where he produced a short list of smaller films before leaving for America where he would integrate himself into the studio system of film production. Over the years his eyesight began to fade and his films became more straightforward in their production, culminating with his last film Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in 1957, which was described critically as “having considerable impact, due not so much to visual style, as to the narrative structure and mood and to the expertly devised plot, in which the turnabout is both surprising and convincing.” Proving that even when hamstrung by physical deterioration, Fritz Lang truly was a master of the craft.
References:Fritz Lang Biography, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000485/bio Crucified to the Machine: Religious Imagery in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis By David Michael Wharton; 6 January 2003 http://www.strangehorizons.com/2003/20030106/metropolis.shtml White, Dennis L., ”Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” in Film Noir An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, ed. Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward (Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1992), 21–22. ISBN 0-87951-479-5